Saturday, July 23, 2011

the end, for now!

i said kwaheri (goodbye) to my kenyan friends and family this past wednesday.  i know that i went for a few days without blogging, my apologies! i departed from watamu, this time on a plane which was much less painful than the 12 hour bus ride and headed for nairobi for the last little bit of my trip.  when i arrived back, i was greeted at the airport by richard, a volunteer from south africa who helped me with my bags and escorted me to the car taking myself and two other volunteers back to the house.  heather and carolyn were two very cool girls with a very awesome mission. heather was an entertainment reporter who has interviewed stars like cameron diaz and jennifer aniston, and decided that she was tired of the red carpet affair and wanted to do a story on something with depth and purpose, hence her and carolyn's, her videographer, decision to head to africa to do a story on volunteering in foreign countries.  i wish i could say to look for me on tv, but they never got the chance to interview me as they had hoped because they left for watamu the very next day...bummer! check out their link of a few videos they have posted so far!  one of the perks of traveling with an organization that is flexible is that there is a constant influx of volunteers, so you meet new people from different places.  the saturday night before i left, i went to a restaurant with heather, carolyn, richard, daniella, and elisia.  we went to a place with a great atmosphere, sitting underneath the stars by a fire, and the food was delicious but a bit overpriced (we should have known this would be the case when we noticed it was a mzungu hangout!).  afterward we went to rafikis and psys, two local discos where we danced away the night with some of the locals-i had a blast and got some great new music to add to my itunes playlist. 

sunday morning a new girl, Claire, arrived.  she was a medical student from england and one of the most genuinely sweet people i think i have ever met.  some of us went to church on sunday where i listened to a monumental service that charged the congregation of the church to be the change the country needs to see with the next election.  post-independence, africa was voted to be the happiest continent in the world, and now it is known to be the unhappiest, plagued by corruption that has left the majority of the country hungry and homeless.  the church is beginning a mission of prayer that will go into 21 counties of kenya where they will pray up until the election-for a peaceful election compared to the previous one that erupted in anarchy within the country.  i felt like i was a part of hearing something historic and was deeply moved by her words.  before the service began a man from none other than chapel hill, north carolina was acknowledged and of course after the service i had to go over and introduce myself!  after the service i found him and turns out he is actually a professor at UNC in the Public Health school, how crazy! he is a part of an organizaiton called africarising that was created to help the people of kenya learn ways to sustain themselves a part from just receiving aid that may or may not always get to the right places.  we exchanged contact information and i hope to meet up with him and talk about how i can help the next time i visit (because there will be a next time!) 

the last few days i spent at the St. Dorcas orphanage with the children who i met my very first week.  we played football, netball, hangman, sang, danced, and i taught jacinta the basics of first aid.  it didn't feel like enough. the hugs that i gave, the attention i gave, it didn't seem like enough. i had a moment where i was watching them play in their clothes that draped off of them and were being held together by a single thread and my eyes began to well up with tears. i live in a country where opportunity exists and i don't have to worry about where i will get my next meal, where i have choices in life, and most importantly i have endless love. the children at st. dorcas live in shacks, have a playground that is nothing but red dirt, eat the same thing for breakfast lunch and dinner, day in and day out, go to bed without a good night story, share a bed with one or two other children and wake up and do the same thing the next day. even worse, and this hurts the worst, they may never hear the words i love you. i see them smile and laugh, i am amazed by their selflessness as they stand when i enter and offer me their food, their seats.  they ask me, please don't leave us, please never forget me. if i have ever felt heartbreak, this is it.  i look each child into their eyes and tell them you are beautiful, you are special, God has a plan for you...i hug each one, they grab my hand and look up at me and smile and i melt.  i think i feel more sorry for them, than they do for themselves. i know the life of love and family and i have a place that i can return to called home.  they don't know this life.  i will blog more on my ongoing mission for these children, please stay tuned for ways to help these children and for pictures and more stories of them!

so my last day, we travelled into nairobi center to stroll around and check out some of the government buildings and what not. well, the mentality in africa is never be in a hurry because there is constant traffic. well, this girl had a flight to catch and we were caught in traffic, once we got out of the congestion, the bus breaks down but praise the Lord miraculously begins working. i get home just in time to take a shower and eat a little bite and make sure all my things are packed. all of this could easily be done without trouble, if there is electricity. after the shower, the power goes out, so i am packing by the light of my phone. the power decides to finally come back on and i finish packing, eat my favorite meal that miriam kindly made for me and call the cab guy to make sure he has remembered to come get me. things are looking on the up and up. don't speak too soon kelly...when i arrive to the airport, i find my flight has been CANCELLED. there it is, staring me in my face, the worst combination of letters i could imagine at this point. my palms begin to sweat, my heart beats. i walk up to the counter, she tells me there is nothing available for me. i don't settle. i walk over to the ticket office, which mind you has a line that is moving at a turtle pace. some people are getting tickets on another flight, there is hope but this line is moving so slow i might lose my chance to make the departure time. i could use my phone to call the airlines, but wait i decided to leave my international phone with one of the other volunteers because why the heck would i need it...i guess i didn't think of this scenario ever occurring! well, luckily i had two angels behind me, john and debbie, who i began talking to and they let me use their phone. i then called the airlines and was able to speak with someone who re-issued my ticket and got me on a flight to zurich, from zurich to brussels, from brussels to dulles, and dulles to raleigh. long story short, here i am in the comfort of my home in north carolina, just after spending the day with my sister and niece, thinking how good it is to be home, but yet how bittersweet it is to be away from those who became my family and my home away from home. i am grateful for this feeling, because i know that it represents a trip full of purpose, full of love and memories to last forever, a feeling that keeps me attached to kenya and to continue doing the work God set out for me to do for them-because it doesn't end when my departure, but will continue until that good work is done. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

quicky, but goody!

tomorrow marks the one week mark from my departure, i am rooting myself in every moment, somewhat preparing for my return, but part of me doesn't even want to go to the realities of life that greet me when i return. so far i have lived the kenyan way, going about my day unsure of what is to come, living in the moment. responsibility awaits when i return, along with friends and family i can't wait to love on, but the ones i love here i will surely miss...but, we don't have to think about that quite yet, because there is still work and fun yet to be had!
this past weekend i went snorkeling in the indian ocean. it was unbelievable! the boat we went out on was two levels tall and as i climbed to the top i thought this is the good life. when we arrived to our snorkeling destination i jumped in and fish swarmed around me. i had never experienced such unhindered attention from these little guys! i placed a piece of bread in my hand and they all came towards me, i yelled underwater and laughed as i was caught up in their trek for food! one of the guys got a little sea sick so we had to go back a little early which was a good thing because a storm was a-brewing and the rain lasted the rest of the day. boo! but i finished some reading, learned a new game from friends called "kemps" and then watched a movie on my computer with the rest of the volunteers! sunday we went to malindi for a short bit and then came back to have lunch and put on our bathing suits to head to the beach right outside our house. a couple of friends and i swam in the water and then walked to the "curios" (shopping shacks) on the beach and then my friend daniella and i rode a camel back. yea, you heard me right, a camel. the best but scariest part was getting on and off it literally felt like i was riding a bull...a once in a lifetime thing that i had to do!

yesterday we went to an outreach on karibwe island with the dispensary where we educated, counseled, and tested residents on HIV and prevention and then did health assessments and administered vaccinations to children. we were only prepared to do these few things listed above but the residents were told that doctors were coming from the mainland to treat them. there were no doctors with us, and when the others heard this, knowing i was a nurse, looked at me to be able to fill in for this duty. i helped with some dressing wounds and gave out the few pain medications that i had but i felt so unprepared and sorry for the people that showed up seeking care, only to be told they needed to be referred since we didn't have the resources. i started to tear up looking into the eyes of an elderly woman who could not afford to cross the island and pay for the services. my prayer is that she stays well until the clinic goes out again next month with more capabilities to treat those like her. after we were finished we were given a tour of the island and a short canoe ride before we came back to play football with the school children. 

today i helped build a house for a lady from the clinic. this is no ordinary house but a mud house where i carried dirt in tubs on my head like a local and then we poured water to make this clumpy, moist, clay and literally threw it on the current structure to wait for it to harden and build onto it more. i took pictures so i can't wait to upload them! it was dirty but mostly awesome!

that is all for now rafikis, i wish i could type more but i am drained from the day! much love from me to you!

Friday, July 8, 2011

more stories...

i couldn't think of a creative title for this post, which is why it sounds so anticlimatic, however the past few days have been anything but that! yesterday i continued to work at the local dispensary...wait, but back up before i get into that let me tell you about a little story that involves a directionally challenged girl (me). so the other morning i woke up to go for a run on the beach. family and friends who dearly love me, before grabbing the telephone to call and warn me about how unsafe this is and start to worry, don't panic! there are resorts surrounding us with plenty of mzungu (white people) walking the beach and you know you can't keep this spirit fenced in! i have great instincts to warn me when i am not safe :) as i began my run i was too fixated on my ipod and which song was playing to pay attention to my surroundings, thus as i was finishing my run, the beach began to look all the same and i could no longer find the opening to my home. mom, i know your palms are sweaty right now and probably many others. this is a God story. i wasn't panicking, i knew i was okay, i was safe i just needed to find my way home. well, my answer came in the form of the nicest man who walked me along the beach with his dog back home safely. his name was benton and i have him to thank for sending me on my way home. we talked about america and kenya and it was a sweet surprise sent from above. 

so, after i got back safe and sound, i went to the dispensary. i hesitate before even telling this story, but i feel it impacted my life in such a monumental way that i have to share. i hesitate because i understand the sensitivity of the subject, and i by no means want to use this blog in any offensive way. a young woman yesterday came in due to abdominal cramping, after 4 months of being pregnant...she had miscarried. i am going to stop there in terms of details, for i feel like sharing any more of this portion would be disrespectful to her and her right to such a private and devastating experience.  i could not communicate with her (she only spoke swahili), i saw her tears and i shared my own. i prayed over her, i asked for words and all that i knew to say was "gina lango kelly, gina lango pole". meaning i am kelly, i am sorry-these few words for such a large moment.  as the nurse was finishing, i began to help and i washed and massaged her feet. it reminded me of how Jesus washed the disciples feet. for me, this was an act of the least. it was all i knew to do-instead of my words offering comfort, my hands tried. for Jesus it was a reminder that no one should ever think himself higher than he ought to, that we are never above even the most lowly service.  this was my humble service to this woman who had just lost something so precious, so dear to her. i will never forget this.

after this experience, i excused myself and took a few moments, and then i began helping my friend kessy with charting the diseases and conditions of their patient population. betty, the sweet lady training to be a nurse, told me that i needed an african boyfriend to use when i come to visit again. kessy spelled our names on a paper: kessy and kelly and told me, "see, even God knew!" my favorite thing is laughing with the people here, and they do so much of it, and they do it well! i brought my bag of trail mix to share with the staff since they are not able to afford such items of luxury due to the average person earning 100Ksh (about $1)/day.  you should have seen their faces when they reached in and asked, "what is this from, what is this called" and then as they hesitatingly put it in their mouth to try and then smiled after. i even had one peanut butter m&m left (from where i had picked them out on the airplane ride) that i shared with a boy, kelvin, and his eyes lit up like he had just seen a movie star. they were all so grateful. it is the least i can do for the kindness i have received since beginning volunteering there. i am always the first to be given a seat, or to be offered chai in the break room.

today i was a part of my third delivery. still just as amazing as the first and i am learning the hang of when the nurse needs what and how to assist and then assume my role when the umbilical cord is cut and i can take over with the newborn care (my favorite part).  i assisted the woman during her laboring all the way up until she delivered which was nice to be a part of. the nurse, evans, told me that i could take over the maternity ward now, i laughed and told him to give me a few more days!

thank you all for your comments, i love reading how my words have made you felt. i miss you all, keep writing and thinking of me!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

special delivery...

so, my dream came true. my very first volunteer experience in watamu greeted me with not one, but two deliveries and i got to help with everything from placing the IV, to administering the oxytocin, to the infant care after the babies were delivered. and the best part, i got to hold the tiny little infants after they were born in my arms, all swaddled up in their african print wraps-biggest smile on my face!  the lady was going to let me perform the delivery all on my own at first, however i felt that today i should only spectate her and help with the infant care and be more of an assistant. there was also another lady named betty who was training to be a midwife. i asked her how long it takes and she said she will train for 3 years and she had only been training for 2 days! she came up to me and said that she wanted to learn from me, that she is wanting to do what i want to do! so i got to explain all of the procedures and reasons for administering the oxytocin, be still my heart!

listen to the difference in labor and delivery from africa to america.  so, when the lady arrives she is placed in this room that has two beds that are nothing more than a pad with stirrups. when i asked if there was any pain medication the nurse, mwana laughed at me! they have no way to monitor the baby's progress and health nor to monitor the mother's vital signs, so therefore any pain medication to interfere with the process would be dangerous to the health of the mother and baby.  basically the pregnant woman lies on her side and waits.  the midwife told me that once the woman reaches 8 cm dilation then they don't allow them to get up and move around, otherwise they will encourage ambulation (all of my nursing friends understand this importance!)  okay so, without going into much intimate detail (because it can get graphic), once all of the dilation/effacement/and so on is reached, oxytocin is administered and you again wait for the woman to feel the urge to push.  then, the nurse alone delivers the baby, out the baby comes, is dried with nothing more than a large piece of cotton and suctioned with a very old suction machine (but don't worry, a new suction tube is applied for each newborn) and then the mother waits in another room for two hours before she is released! could you imagine, in america there is a minimum stay of 24 hours? i was amazed at the way these women can power through with no pain medication and no real support.  i stayed with a lady who was experiencing pretty intense contractions and tried to comfort her through massage and counterpressure on her back. she only spoke swahili so touch was pretty much all i could do, but i felt like i had to do something! the nurse just left and said she would be back...tough love here!  there was also another lady who came in, not realizing she was in labor and delivered also!

i also got to speak to simeyu, a HIV counselor who is actually HIV positive but has an incredible outlook on life and how God gives us life and it is our choice on how to live it. i feel like i could have sat and listened to him for hours! the services offered at this community center are really progressive and it impressed me that medication, counseling, and testing were all free and those people at risk for "default" or non-adherence were followed up with for however long was necessary.  they also have a mobile clinic to attempt to reach the community at large, and those that can't get to the clinic by means of transportation.

just to update you rafikis, i am now in watamu which is a little beach town on the east coast of kenya.  it is like a piece of kenya paradise. on the way here i took a very bumpy, very long...i don't think i can stress enough the very long part!  it was a grueling 12 hour bus ride, but ameliorated with the occassional zebra or safari animal running by, as well as the beautiful landscape and interesting towns we would pass through. watamu has a small town feel with the typical matatu and kenyan kindness that reminds you that you are still in africa!  my host family lives in this home which sits right by the indian ocean and has a huge front porch to have meals and sit and talk with new found friends.  last night i slept under a mosquito net for the first time since it wasn't needed in nairobi, and i awoke to no bites-yay, mission accomplished!

i continue to thank you for my following and prayers,

kwa'here (goodbye)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

pleasant surprises

so traveling alone can be terrifying but exhilarating.  You are open, more like actively seeking opportunities to meet new people and make friends quickly to explore Kenya with.  i met a girl from Connecticut who is also volunteering the other night and we left for safari this past wednesday.  so from wednesday to friday i spent my time navigating through the bush with our guide safari steve, 3 canadian friends, and a girl from hong kong who had spent the last two years traveling (whoa, really puts my 3 weeks to shame, huh?!) pleasant surprise was meeting some pretty awesome people who had so many stories to share and great personalities that were willing to stay up after dinner and play a round of scrabble with a masaai boy before going to bed and awakening for our adventure the next day!

we saw everything but the leopard on our safari.  it was probably; no it was the most beautiful experience of my life.  as i rode with the top popped up on our four wheel drive safari van, allowing the wind to blow through my hair and looking out into this land that spread for eternity i was overwhelmed with God's creation.  what is referred to as the "big five": buffalo, leopard, lion, rhino, and elephant is what we were "gaming" for.  so as i stated before we saw all of these except the leopard; however, we also saw wildabeast and zebra, antelope, crown crane, giraffe, and so many more! there is something occurring right now through the masaai mara known as the great migration which is where the wildabeast and zebra travel from tanzania to kenya in order to search for more vegetation to eat; and we got to witness it!  we also got to witness a lion panting after his kill (a poor baby zebra that he was lying on to save for later).  There are so many small stories that i could share here, literally bursting from such excitement from this trip, but there is limited time!

today, a pleasant surprise was a kind man who picked myself and two of my friends up and took us to "the junction" after we had been waiting for a matatu (sort of bus) for over 20 minutes.  he was from south africa here for a telecommunication project for his company he worked for.  so i got to experience a little bit of south africa through him! for those of you who are calling me crazy for picking up a ride, this would never be something approved of in the states, however like this experience, so many things differ here from home-good and bad!

in all the fun adventures i have been having, i am ready to begin volunteering again in the coming weeks! last night i spoke with my host mom, beatrice, who was expressing her passion for the children of kenya.  hearing her words sent this fire through me to do more when i return home; that my mission for the kenyan children doesn't stop here and i cannot wait to see what God has in store for me! i also met a woman who studies homeopathic medicine and we are hoping to meet up and chat over coffee sometime tomorrow or before i leave! 

i continue to cherish all of the thoughts and prayers i am receiving; i feel them, and i feel God's presence like never before.  a sign i said outside of a village said "God is good, all the time" this was outside of a village that was basically a shack. wow, can we say that always given the same circumstances.  

enda salama (go in peace)